Football Previews

The eight Champions League contenders ranked from biggest outsider to favourite

By Muhammad Butt

The eight Champions League contenders ranked from biggest outsider to favourite

Published: 12:45, 9 August 2020 | Updated: 13:17, 10 August 2020

Much to the delight of everyone all around the world, the Champions League is back!

Technically, the Round of 16 already came back a few days ago as a handful of sides tied off the loose ends left by the dramatic cessation of football activities brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic.

But now we have the elite eight of European football all drawn together with the quarter-final line-up set. It will be different, with a rejigged format involving single-legged ties to be played every few days. This promises to be an intense 11-day sprint to the final in Lisbon.

But who are the favourites? Every side has qualities, so we’ve looked at all eight contenders and ranked them by the percentile odds on them winning the competition, according to SBK*. Who ranks where? Read on and find out!

*percentage odds correct as of 12:30 on 9/8/2020

8. Lyon

Win/Loss/Draw: 3/2/3
Goals Scored: 11
Conceded: 10
SBK percentile odds (to win Champions League outright): 3.12%

The French side had a middling group stages but their incredible away goal victory over Juventus has propelled them into the quarter-finals. Houssem Aouar is a genuinely special talent in midfield and watch out for Memphis Depay in attack, who has now scored in six straight Champions League games. They had two classic encounters with Man City last season so you should expect fireworks (though probably not progression) again in the quarters.

7. RB Leipzig

Win/Loss/Draw: 5/1/2
Goals Scored: 14
Conceded: 8
SBK percentile odds (to win Champions League outright): 5.00%

Leipzig were sensational as they dispatched a weary Spurs side just before the Covid-19 hiatus. However unfortunately for them Chelsea have since signed their starting striker, and without Timo Werner it’s hard to see them possessing the kind of punch needed to knock out Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid.

6. Atalanta

Win/Loss/Draw: 4/3/1
Goals Scored: 16
Conceded: 16
SBK percentile odds (to win Champions League outright): 7.14%

Everyone’s second-favourite club Atalanta started off this Champions League campaign in a terrible way with three straight defeats. A draw with Manchester City turned it all around and they’ve won the last four in a row. Scoring goals for fun in Serie A (a barely believable 98, by far the league’s best) and will be looking at an injury-ravaged PSG with hungry eyes. They will never again have a better chance of making a European semi-final. Would you bet against them?

5. Atlético Madrid

Win/Loss/Draw: 5/2/1
Goals Scored: 12
Conceded: 7
SBK percentile odds (to win Champions League outright): 10.42%

The juggernaut is rolling now and the only force that can stop it has been eliminated already. Having already dispatched of defending champions Liverpool before the Covid-19 hiatus, Diego Simeone’s Atlético Madrid are hitting form at the right time as we head into the final stretch. With their ability to sit deep and strike on the break, as well as the elimination of second-legs reducing the amount of time they have to defend for, Atleti are in an incredible position to overcome the horrors of 2014 and 2016 by going all the way.

4. Barcelona

Win/Loss/Draw: 5/0/3
Goals Scored: 13
Conceded: 6
SBK percentile odds (to win Champions League outright): 11.11%

Barcelona are an old, beat-up team in desperate need of young reinforcements. They squeezed by Napoli but now face a Bayern side brimming with youth and pace. With a spine of Gerard Piqué, Sergio Busquets and Leo Messi they will always have a chance, but they will need big production from Antoine Griezmann and Luis Suárez when the former looks short of confidence and the latter has struggled in Europe for the better part of two years. They saw Napoli off with Messi (who else?) and Frenkie de Jong shining, but Quique Setién’s approach was cautious and his subs awful and too late. You hesitate to count Messi out, but with Bayern looming it doesn’t look good.

3. PSG

Win/Loss/Draw: 6/1/1
Goals Scored: 20
Conceded: 4
SBK percentile odds (to win Champions League outright): 15.62%

PSG signed Neymar for €222m with the intention that he carry them to glory in the Champions League. Well now with basically all his attacking team-mates out injured the Brazilian is going to have to be in true one-man-army form if he is to drag the Parisians to the final. Neymar has the talent, but he may struggle to overcome the harmonic genius if Atalanta all by himself, let alone the mighty Atleti.

2. Bayern Munich

Win/Loss/Draw: 8/0/0
Goals Scored: 31
Conceded: 6
SBK percentile odds (to win Champions League outright): 23.81%

If you look at it on paper, Bayern Munich have to be the favourites for this season’s Champions League. They’ve been terrifyingly good so far, winning every single game and looking so slick doing so. The only thing that could count against the Bavarians is that they’ve been on autopilot for a while given they won the Bundesliga early and the second-leg against Chelsea was a dead rubber. Can they maintain their competitive fire? If they can then even with Barcelona and Manchester City standing in their way, you’d be a fool to bet against them.

1. Manchester City

Win/Loss/Draw: 6/0/2
Goals Scored: 20
Conceded: 6
SBK percentile odds (to win Champions League outright): 30.77%

Pep Guardiola knows his failure to win the Champions League since leaving Leo Messi behind is going to haunt him (especially as Messi has won it again since then), and he also knows that City won’t have a better chance than now to finally get him that win. The rest of the Premier League sides are out and the single-legged format should help his side who are inexperienced at traversing two-legs. The second-leg win against Madrid was a masterclass in match control and if they’ve got the hang of controlling games like that, it bodes very well. They have the quality and the coaching, can they finally deliver?

Kevin De Bruyne